Being a cyclist in the suburbs

Discussion in 'Commuting and Road Safety' started by HellonWheels, Aug 2, 2003.

  1. HellonWheels

    HellonWheels New Member

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    I spent my whole life in a major city, and my husband recently moved us to the burbs. Apart from the fact that I generally despise it here, it is very hard to ride a bike here! No bike paths as we had in the city, cars dont see you...and when you dont drive (like me), you need the bike to get around.

    I have three bikes..one for racing, one for general riding, and another specially fitted for going grocery shopping (baskets on the sides and in front, etc.) I tend to be very anti-technological (ok, except I do use the internet, lol)....I see cycling for errands, etc as a form of protest against the almost total acceptance of the automobile...which I feel has led to Americans becoming extra fat, extra lazy, extra, materialistic. I could go on and on so let me stop now.

    Are there any other suburban cyclists here? How do you manage it?
     
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  2. RalleighOke

    RalleighOke New Member

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    Well, here is the good old South Africa, we would rather cycle in suburbs IMO.

    We do not have bike lanes so find it generally safer to cycle out of the cities, which can be quite dangerous.

    The less traffic there is the better.
     
  3. zumbrunndbla

    zumbrunndbla New Member

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    I don't entirely agree. More traffic slows drivers down and forces them (as well as the cyclists) to pay attention. I ride downtowon Boston a lot. It requires alertness, but even if a collision happens it is going to be at low speeds and therefor survivable. In the suburbs on the other hand a lonely loony driver at twice the responsible speed can surprise and scare the hell out of you.

    As to route 42: if there is a reasonable shoulder, which is almost always the case on numbered routes, it is not dangerous, even if it feels like it. Do not ride too close to the curb though: you want to give yourself at least 2 or 3 feet to swerve right if someone passes too close. But keep in mind: bicycles get hit from behind very rarely. And you have already figured out how to be a pedestrian in dangerous situations, for example if you need to turn left at an intersection: get off the bike, wheel the bike across along with the other pedestrians (if any), hop on when it is safe again.

    Two more tips:

    Be visible! I grew up in Switzerland. When I was young someone invented a spoon shaped plastic device. It would be orange and a reflector was on the "spoon". This thing would be mounted on the bike to point left with the "spoon" being visible from behind. It would induce drivers to take a little more distance when passing. Unfortunately the effect wears off as drivers get used to the device. However: wear bright color clothes, maybe a reflective armband on your left arm. It will help. Also have good lights in the dark.

    Learn to look backward without swerving! This requires some training on a safe piece of road. But it is not hard. Mirrors are o.k., but you still need this skill.
     
  4. daveornee

    daveornee New Member

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    Yes, we are here. I suggest that you look for the closest active cycling club and look for others in your area that have the same interest.
    I also suggest community involvement, especially in situations where education on bicycling safety can be addressed.
    Suburban design could take your valuable input. Try to get involved in your town, county, township, and/or any entity that decides on how roads, by-ways, and parking lots are designed and built.
    In my area, I watch the bus boys and dishwashers as they navigate suburbia and malls to get to/from their jobs. I think their attitudes are set by the realities of how practical bicycling is.
    I remember them when I find my attitude needs an adjustment.
    David Ornee, Western Springs, IL (suburban Chicago)
     
  5. Geonz

    Geonz New Member

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    I also have a fast, medium and get-across-campus-and-town bike with baskets. I hunt for the best routes and the places to avoid, look for four-way stops, and keep a can rattling around in my basket so pedestrians know to run away.
     
  6. ImGonnaDie

    ImGonnaDie New Member

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    i live in staten island ny and basically this is the lost borough it's beautiful has lots of parks and all but really no bike lanes at all and im always riding around at all times of day i started riding in the summer when i'd be straining up a steep hill on the hardest gear possible in 80 and above degree heat anyway mainly keep an eye out at all times and always be ready to stop short and when someone yells at ya wait till u get home and write on a forum about how much you'd like to kill the bastard oh yeah WEAR A HELMET And a good reflective vest is best as welll :)
     
  7. ohiobiker

    ohiobiker New Member

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    I ride in the lane 3 feet from the curb, parked cars or any other obsticle. I ride in traffic and obey all the laws of a vehicle on the road. I use good mirrors and a helmet. I wear a flourescent vest with large reflective strips at night and lots of lights. Tireflies, blinkies and 6 volt 10 watt halogen headlights. Just get out there and do it. You'll adjust. Most motorists respect cyclists and give them a wide berth. Sure I get some heckling but it's mostly teenagers. Ocassionally people get nasty but I just don't let them bother me. It's actually funny when someone hells obsenities at me and then catches a light. The look of terror on their faces when I ride up along side of them is priceless.
     
  8. BIKEBOYTAYLOR

    BIKEBOYTAYLOR New Member

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    I've been cycling in the burbs for the last 15 years and can honestly say that I've had very few incidents of people honking horns or being nasty to me. Because i commute everyday, at the same time, the same people see me each day so they've become accustumed to seeing me riding. Ive also found that obeying the traffic rules does a lot for being respected. There's been a number of times that I've been stopped at a red light and some yaho cyclist rips past me and runs the red light nearly killing himself and causing an accident. Is it really worth it to get home 2 minutes sooner. My life, wife and my kids are worth far to me than any speedy commute.


    15 years worth of commuting has taught me a lot of lessons, but the biggest is respect the drivers and they'll respect you.:rolleyes:
     
  9. willida

    willida New Member

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    I live in a suburb of Memphis, TN. Memphians tend to agree that we have the worst drivers here. (The TV news magazine 60 Minutes sent a crew here about a decade ago to figure out why we have so many accidents per capita. Their van was involved in 2 accidents during the week it was here.)

    I agree with many of the comments. Just get out there. Drivers will show you respect if you obey traffic laws. The very few who may be verbally abusive are ignorant of the law (and just plain ignorant oafs, their ignorance tends to be in direct proportion to the size and fuel inefficiency of their vehicle).

    FWIW, I found that I get more respect (more space in the lane) on my 7 mi. one-way daily commute when I wear cycling clothes (jerseys and bike shorts or tights). Also, the colder the weather, the more respect I get (so far, I've ridden in as low as 23 degrees F with no problems).
     
  10. Geonz

    Geonz New Member

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    I go through a college town and maybe it's the Midwest psyche but yes, most drivers give me room. They also seem to be nicer when it's cold (-1F is the coldest I've gone :)) and when I"m riding the elderly bike, especially if I'm wearing tons of layers and have tossed a can into the basket to be a rattle as I cruise campus.
    It *is* easier riding in the middle of town than in the more suburban sections. I think the suburbs are more difficult than either downtown or out in the prairies.
     
  11. bykmor

    bykmor New Member

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    there is no real need for me to add to this post. lots of interesting comments and good advice already here... but i guess that's what forums are for... my rambling.

    i get to experience it all. i live in a "suburban city" about 6 miles north of the "urban city" in which i work. i cyclomute daily. so i see the surburbanites in a damned hurry to get back to their "relaxed" surburban lifestyle as well as the inner city craziness of honking, double parking, busses, big busses with the joint in the center, lots of pedestrians, etc. i love it!

    one piece of advice i would give is, spare no expense in making your commuter/townie as safe and as comfortable as you can. it's A LOT less than most anything you would spend on a car. i have a cyclocross/touring bike with decent quality parts. i use a dynamo hub with a nice headlight and taillight, as well as a flashing battery powered taillight, some good fenders, a rack, panniers. some rain/cold weather pants and one of those double layer jackets where a medium weight windbreaker zips out of a rain jacket with a hood. combined, i have been warm at 10 degrees F. and a reflective vest over all of that. GOOD TIRES. i have studded tires in the winter, as we can get a decent amount of snow and ice, and some heavy duty (at least size 35) smooth tires for the rest of the year (check out the ruffy-tuffy tire in the catalog section of www.rivbike.com ). i wear clear sunglasses year round and i've even recently purchased a filter facemask, although i'm still working on getting it not to fog my glasses. i feel ready for anything.

    i guess the original poster wasn't interested in getting back into the city as much as riding in the bikephobic suburbs, but it's still the same idea: some preperation (right bike, right clothes, right lights); lots of visibility; and getting out there. i am highly motivated by the thought that maybe just one driver a month will see me riding to work or riding to the store and think to him/herself... "man, i should try that."

    and for when you want to get on your racing bike... find a direct route out of town. one nice thing about the "suburbs" is that they are one step closer to "rural". even though the country has it's own problems, even urban bike paths aren't the same as the wide open road.

    bykmor
     
  12. Tripped

    Tripped New Member

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    I live in Australia and i live in the suburbs aswell, but i normally ride a backway(non-freeway) to the city, but i guess this depends on how far you live out from the city.
     
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